Cobb County man sues district attorney and others - CBS46 News

Cobb County man sues district attorney and others for wrongful prosecution

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COBB COUNTY, GA (CBS46) -

Leonard Swanagan, of Cobb County, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Cobb County District Attorney's Office and other agencies for wrongful prosecution, stemming from his arrest and 2011 conviction for violating requirements of Georgia's sex offender registry. 

An exclusive CBS Atlanta investigation found Swanagan was not supposed to be on the registry. After the investigation, then-Cobb County District Attorney Patrick Head later dropped the charges in 2012 after Swanagan was granted a new trial. 

Swanagan said he was almost prohibited from filing the lawsuit because two Cobb County State Court judges had denied his application for a pauper's affidavit which would have waived the $300 filing fee. Swanagan claimed he was indigent because he lives off his Social Security payments of $695 a month. 

After CBS Atlanta investigative reporter Jeff Chirico called Judge Kathryn Tanksley to ask why the affidavit was denied, Tanksley changed her mind and granted Swanagan a pauper's affidavit.

"It evidently had nothing to do with my paperwork. It had nothing to do with my financial situation. It had something to do with me suing Cobb County," said Swanagan. 

Rachel Lazarus, staff attorney with Gwinnett Legal Aid said judges who deny pauper's affidavits, block access to the courts for low-income people.

"It's absolutely vital that we access the courts as a society because that's how we solve many of our problems," said Lazarus.

Tanksley's assistant explained that the judge had only reviewed Swanagan's income when she made her initial decision. Swanagan said that should have been sufficient to determine he is indigent. 

"I thank God for you and CBS Atlanta," Swanagan told Chirico. "You really came through for me. Without your help, none of this would be possible."

In his lawsuit, Swanagan alleged that the Cobb County District Attorney's Office knew Swanagan did not have to legally register as a sex offender but prosecuted the case anyway. 

Swanagan said he was incarcerated for 14 months and offered more than a dozen plea deals, all of which he rejected. 

Swanagan was convicted in 2011 after he said none of the evidence he had proving his innocence was entered into court.

In September 2012, Head told CBS Atlanta News that he did not believe his office erred in prosecuting Swanagan. 

Swanagan has also filed suit against the Cobb County Sheriff's Office, the Cobb County Adult Detention Center and the Georgia Department of Corrections Sentence Enforcement Unit.

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